Booze loving Lads travelling Southern Africa
Driving from the wet, mountainous region of north western Swaziland, the Baz Bus descended into a hot, arid environment from where we crossed the frontier back into South Africa.
Within five minutes of having left the border post I spotted two giraffes grazing on an acacia tree. They were definitely real ones this time and not heavy machinery look-alikes. The elegant animals were stood near the main road, only a few feet away from a woman who strode along the hard shoulder wearing a traffic cone on her head.
We’d been lucky enough to see a good number of giraffes since landing in Johannesburg. Yet no matter how unoriginal they were slowly becoming, seeing such wild beauty never failed to rouse an awareness of how lucky we were to be in Africa.
The long, full day drive to Durban was expected to be a bit of a nightmare. In actual fact, it ended up being a very enjoyable journey. Dean and Danny passed the time by trying to chat up a young Dutch girl on the back seat. Whilst I sat alone, listening to my mp3 player and relishing the picturesque scenery that rolled by.
Originally we had planned to stay in the centre of Durban for the entire weekend – principally to enjoy its reputedly good nightlife and infamously loose women. Having enjoyed Anusa’s company greatly whilst at Legends, the three of us decided to accept his invitation and stay at the Black Mamba Lodge instead, a hostel owned and run by his older brother out in the suburbs.
The eccentric Monica, whom we had all developed a soft spot for by this stage, decided to come to Black Mamba too. All of us really wanted to show our appreciation of Anusa’s kind offer and were genuinely looking forward to our stay.
However, when Anusa also invited a Dutch guy sat next to him on the Baz Bus we all had a sudden change of heart. This lanky prat had been a selfish gobshite for the entire drive. Arriving back late from every toilet stop, he stunk of stale fags and bored the bollocks off anybody who had the misfortune of speaking to him.
Except Anusa, obviously.
Dean, Danny, Monica and I had already told the gracious Malawian we would go with him, and it was too late to back out at last minute. Alighting in the city centre then, we waited patiently beside a quiet lane before being picked up and driven to the suburb of Hillcrest, located half an hour away in the Valley of a Thousand Hills.
The Black Mamba turned out to be an absolutely fantastic place to stay. It was everything and more a backpacker could wish for. Anusa’s big brother Tease proved a gracious host also, grabbing us all a welcome beer at the hostel’s cool little bar as soon as we walked through the door.
The barmaid who served us our complimentary brew was just as pleasant as the setting. Her most appealing asset not being her geniality, albeit lovely, but came in the form of the two gargantuan bosoms that swung from her enchanting rib cage.
I’d never seen breasts like it. They were colossal, and precisely what the doctor ordered after ten hours on the road.
Dean and I sat at the bar ogling the barmaid’s awesome cleavage all evening. The two of us ploughed through the hostel’s stock of red wine in no time, before Tease and Anusa quite forcibly introduced us to their wide selection of shots.
It wasn’t long until I was plastered. Therefore my recollection of the evening’s events is limited, although the pictures on Danny’s camera enlightened me a little more as to what had transpired.
As well as Salome, the buxom barmaid, one of the other staff members at Black Mamba was a cute young black girl named Zola. She was very well behaved and sensible during work hours. Yet when Zola finished all her jobs and got on the Tequila with Dean and myself, it appears as if we managed to coax a bit of the devil into the faithful church goer.
As I mentioned, my memory fails me as to exactly what happened during the night. But there is photographic evidence of myself and the lovely Zola indulging in a hearty bout of smooching. Another picture shows us prancing around the common room like a poor man’s Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers; just decidedly less nimble on my behalf and considerably more African on Zola’s.
Zola and I seemed to be having a ball in our drunken merriment. At the same time however, we appeared incredibly ill matched. I bore a scary resemblance to Fagin from Oliver Twist in Danny’s photos – all nose and gangly neck, hunched over like a personified question mark. While poor Zola looked like a more feminine version of Arnold from Different Strokes.
We were a strange looking duo, that’s for sure – possibly too peculiar for the bubbly Zola as she put me to bed shortly after our dance. And from waking up fully clothed, it’s safe to say I didn’t manage to slur her into any form of drunken immorality along the way.
More’s the pity.
The following morning I felt dreadful. Merely picking at the English breakfasts sat in front of us, Dean and I soon gave up on the idea of eating for fear of being sick. Taking to the giant hammock in the garden, the two of us swung in it lazily whilst weighing up our options for the day ahead.
It had been decided the evening before we would stay longer at Black Mamba. Not because there was a lot to see and do in the surrounding area. But simply due to the fact Black Mamba was a quality establishment and it would’ve been a shame to leave so soon.
Danny had been sensible and arisen early that morning, driving with Tease into central Durban for a spot of exploration. He hadn’t drunk much the evening before and was therefore fresh on. Dean and I on the other hand had slept until eleven. Neither of us could be bothered doing anything overly strenuous in our fragile states. And in a joint effort of creativity, concluded that the best thing for us to do was start drinking again post haste.
I couldn’t stomach anymore beer and opted for vodka on the rocks for my hair of the dog. And within the hour we were suitably leathered once more, to the point of being immature pillocks.
Since the trip began there’d been a considerable amount of piss taking going on between the three of us lads. It was usually based around the size of Dean’s giant forehead and the dimensions of Danny’s and my own extra-large noses. In our puerile drunkenness, Dean and I had decided to wear Danny’s clothes for the day. Not out of malice or to really wind him up, but just to get a bit of a reaction when he eventually turned back up.
The more alcohol we consumed however, the more we forgot what we were wearing. And by early afternoon, having lain out in the hammocks with the hostel’s resident canines for most of the day, we had enough dog hairs on us to qualify for jobs leading the blind. Realising we had probably taken our silly antics too far, we slipped out of Danny’s freshly laundered clobber and gave it a good shake off.
Joining Monica and a South African lady at the bar, the two of us began trying to act our age. It was tough. But we almost managed it.
The South African woman was called Mandy. Although she seemed to exaggerate a little, Mandy had an almost mothering quality that made her pleasant to be around.
“I work for a charity.” She said as I quizzed her on her job.
“What sort of charity?”
“It’s difficult to explain,” replied the older woman. “But basically I go around encouraging local artists to produce pieces of art to be auctioned off for the needy.”
“Sounds interesting. So why are you at Black Mamba then?”
“I’m at the hostel checking it out. I want to see if it’s a potential place for my artists to stay whilst in the Durban area.”
There was a bit more to it, but I lost interest in Mandy’s job after a while. She seemed hesitant to go into any real detail and would often contradict herself. Mandy seemed like a nice enough woman though – if a tad simple – and didn’t make for terrible company during those early hours boozing by the bar.
The drink was taking its toll by the mid-afternoon. Collapsing on a giant L-shaped sofa, I rested my head on Monica’s knee as she multitasked playing with my hair and reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. Individually, most females would rather cut off a toe than pursue either of these activities. Not Monica though. She endured both tasks like a true stalwart.
Just as I was drifting into a vodka induced slumber, I heard the front door slam shut. The loud bang was shortly followed by the promising clip-clop of high heels against laminate flooring.
Opening my eyes I was rewarded with the sight of five attractive African girls sauntering through the living room. Smiling in salutation, the girls proceeded to take up residency at the hostel pool table.
Full of drunken beans, I shouted over to the newcomer I deemed to be the most attractive and asked how she was doing. She didn’t ignore me, much to my surprise, and receiving quite a pleasant response in return I was encouraged enough to take my head from Monica’s lap and engage in a full on pull offensive.
“Are you girls staying here?” I asked, hoping for an affirmative.
“No, we’re friends with Anusa,” replied the fit one. “He invited us up for the day.”
“Your boyfriend is Anusa?” I quizzed disappointedly, mishearing her retort.
“No, I said we are all friends with him.”
“Ah, sorry, I can hardly hear you. It’s a bit noisy in here, do you fancy coming outside to the hammock? I’ll let you have a mouthful of my vodka if you do.”
“How kind of you,” responded the pretty black girl.
“Sure, why not.”
Wrestling the dogs out of the hammock, I assisted my new friend into a comfortable position before hopping in beside her.
The ensuing conversation flowed easily between us – which was a real rarity for a social retard of my calibre. Aided considerably by the drink, I managed to come across as a confident, semi intelligent and perhaps even witty young man during the couple of hours we sat chatting. So much so that Ada, the very attractive young Tanzanian girl sat next to me, appeared to be rather smitten.
When the evening chill drew in Ada and I were forced back inside. The two of us joined Dean at the bar whilst he playfully mocked Ella, the nineteen year old Dutch girl he and Danny had tried chatting up the day before.
I’d given Dean a book called The Game before we left the UK which documents one man’s mission to become a master of seduction. It sounds a bit sleazy and pathetic, but it is actually a very well written, interesting and amusing book. Dean himself would admit to being a reluctant reader, but he’d relished The Game and was using everything he’d learned from it in his pursuit of Ella.
One of the things we had both taken from the book was to give negative compliments to a girl. For example, ‘that’s a nice dress’ (compliment), ‘I saw a couple of girls wearing the same one last week’ (not so complimentary). This, if executed correctly, will hopefully keep a lady on her toes, making her think you may be interested, although she isn’t completely certain she could have you if she saw fit. And because women are odd, this doubt strangely makes them all the more keen.
Dean and I took this idea of negative compliments and elevated it to the next level – almost to the point where we were basically just uncomplimentary. Neither of us was ever nasty, as that would have got us nowhere. But a cocky, piss taking approach gave us far more success with women who had a sense of humour than the false, Mr nice guy method favoured by many other gentlemen.
Assisting Dean for a while with his joking put downs, we were soon joined at the bar by some of Ada’s friends. Ordering round after round of Savanna Cider, here we all stayed for much of the evening.
Dean and I loved the crude banter we all shared, and before the night was out we decided to enlighten our harem of women to some of the finer points of British comedy. And by some, I mean the one Dean and I were fixated with at the time.
Namely, Keith Lemon.
“Say bang tidy,” Dean urged Lily, Ada’s only friend who wasn’t referred to by what she was wearing or the size of her knockers.
“Bong tardy,” replied the Tanzanian.
“Bang tidy,” corrected Dean, repeating Keith Lemon’s catchphrase. “With an ‘a’, not an ‘o’.”
“That’s what I said, bong tardy.”
“You’re saying frigging bong, its bang. Bang tidy. Not bong-tardy.”
“Jesus Christ, that’ll do. How hard was that?” commented Dean to me, wishing he hadn’t even bothered. “These lot are supposedly at university. Do they not teach you English there?”
“I said it just like you!” protested Lily. “What kind of shitty English accent is it you guys have anyway?”
“That’s Cumbrian lass, now shut thee mush.”
“Never you mind, now get the drinks in.”
With Ada having sat on my knee for the past hour, unfazed by the semi erection I’d struggled to conceal under my belt, I thought it was now or never to see how interested she actually was.
“Your hair feels nice lass,” I said, patting her afro. “It feels like an old man’s beard.”
“You cheeky prick!”
“What? It’s nice, I like it.” I repeated, stroking it a little more. “I wouldn’t wanna be the one that had comb it mind. I’d need a bloody wire brush.”
Receiving a smile along with a sharp nip to the inner thigh, not a million miles away from where my gonads were gently throbbing, I couldn’t help but think I was in.
“Here, I’ll show you some of Keith Lemon’s world tour on youtube. If you don’t find it funny I’ll buy you drinks all night. Deal?”
“Deal,” replied Ada as she led me by the hand to the hostels PC.
Thankfully Keith didn’t fail to raise a smile, much to the relief of my wallet. And at full volume, he managed to bring cheer to most of the hostel patrons too.
When those that had gathered to watch buggered off back to the bar, I seized the opportunity to plant a big, fat kiss on Ada’s voluptuous black lips. I wasn’t head butted or looked at with disgust, so I took this as a positive sign to carry on; inevitably evolving my semi into a full on stiffy.
“What’s that?” asked Ada being cute as my wand began stirring under her buttocks.
“That would be my growing penis,” I replied bluntly, too tired to beat around the bush.
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say nice, but it occasionally does the job.”
“That’s good to know.”
“Indeed. Would one care to come and have a look at the dorms?” I chanced, hoping that Ada wanted to continue this delicious spot of amour.
“By ‘dorms’ do you mean that thing I’m sitting on?”
“Heavens no,” I fibbed. “What kind of guy do you take me for?”
“You don’t want me to answer that. Come on then, let’s see these ‘dorms’. But I can’t stay long.”
“That suits me just fine.”
The dormitories at Black Mamba were very smart for hostel standards. Tease and his manager Darren had crafted the excellent bunks themselves – each bed having a comfortable mattress and fresh, clean sheets. This was a real rarity on the budget traveller circuit. Usually the sweat stained foam mattresses feel as if you’re sleeping inside a dirty hotdog bun.
It was almost pitch black as Ada and I descended into the dorm. Gentle snores emanated from the throats of a few other travellers as we tiptoed in, one of which I assumed belonged to Danny, and another to the annoying Dutch bloke Anusa had befriended on the bus.
“Which is your bed?” asked Ada.
“Shhh, I don’t wanna wake anybody up. It’s that one.” I whispered, trying to be considerate whilst directing her to the clothes covered mess in the corner.
“Ok, I’ll be as quiet as I can.” She replied, before dragging me under the sheets.
The next fifteen minutes proved a somewhat erotic affair, much to my pleasure. A good amount of kissing and cuddling ensued in that dark bunk. Soon to be followed by a spot of licking and tugging.
As our lascivious encounter came to a climax, I felt as if I’d short changed my companion slightly. It seemed ungentlemanly of me not to offer my services at this point.
Better late than never.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to return the favour?”
“No, it’s fine, honestly,” replied Ada. “I’m cool. Let’s just lie here.”
“Erm, well, thanks then. You can come and watch me wee if you want?” I proposed as I nipped to the bathroom.
It turned out Ada wasn’t a fan of voyeuristic urination. She could have been for all I knew though, so it was certainly worth throwing the offer out there.
Danny had decided to visit a few extra places along the South African coast where he could learn to surf. He left early the next morning, well before Dean and I had even considered surfacing.
We thought Danny would’ve at least said goodbye to us before he left on the Baz Bus. Yet we figured he’d either done so the night before while we were drunk or simply failed to wake us up. Not thinking much of it, both Dean and I hoped he had a good time wherever he ventured to. We, on the other hand, loved it way too much at Black Mamba’s to leave just yet and booked in for an extra couple of nights.
Later that day, as we suffered in silence from yesterday’s drinking binge, I sent Danny an email berating him for the lack of an emotional farewell. It was all done in jest, but when neither Dean nor I heard back from him during the rest of our stay at Black Mamba we began to grow a tad concerned.
As I played around on the PC one time, checking to see if I had anything in my email account, Darren – the hostel’s manager – returned after being out at a meeting.
“Alright mate?” asked Dean
“Not so bad. I’m tired though. All because of that fucker over there!” replied Darren pointing at me.
“What have I done?”
“It was you and that bloody chick last night.”
“I heard it all unfortunately. Every last suck”
“How?” I asked, before it dawned on me who had actually been in the dorm. “Oh shit. Was that you on the opposite bunk? I thought it was that weirdo Dutch guy.”
“It was me sadly. Until I moved and slept on Tease’s floor that is.”
“Sorry dude,” I said panicking. “I wouldn’t have gone down there if I knew you were in the dorm also.”
“Yes you would,” replied Darren. “I fucking would have too. You would have been stupid not to. She was nice man. I dropped her off in Durban this morning.”
“Ah, so that’s where she went.” I replied, thankful he wasn’t overly irked. “So were we really noisy then?”
“You weren’t so bad, apart from asking her if she wanted to watch you piss? That was a new one on me. It was mainly your friend though. All I could hear was her slobbering all over your nuts.”
“Ha ha, it wasn’t that bad.”
“It was mate. But sod it, it’s all good fun. I’d have watched if I didn’t have a meeting this morning,” joked Darren. “You two fuckers look ill by the way, you’re having a shot.”
Had I not kept him awake with my late night antics I would have kindly, yet firmly, declined this suggestion. But as I had, I reluctantly consented. Darren and Tease came back from the bar with two tall shot glass filled with a sickly brown potion that smelled like something you would paint on a garden shed.
“What the frig is this?” asked Dean, grimacing at the fumes being emitted from the shot.
“It’s called Stroh. It’s 80% proof so good stuff,” replied Tease.
“Brilliant. It sounds it.”
“Come on boys. This will sort you out. After three; One, two….”
Dean and I downed the noxious brew and instantly began to spasm. The Stroh coated the inside of my mouth and clung to the full length of my throat like an evil, sadistic version of an antacid advert.
The burn and taste of the strong rum was almost unbearable. There was no way we could throw up and give Darren and Tease the satisfaction they wanted though. Suffering in silence, Dean and I attempted to look unfazed.
I was pissed again off that one glass. Not a nice drunk however, more of a befuddled, anxious drunk. A drunk I felt was better slept off before the merciless bastards made me do another shot.
On our last full day at Black Mamba a few of us caught a lift with Anusa into Durban’s city centre. Driving through a squalid, down trodden part of town called The Point, Anusa warned us to steer well clear of this area when exploring because of its dangerous levels of crime.
Ironically, having driven out of The Point for less than a minute, we came upon a ridiculously grand development called Usharka. It was such a bizarre contrast to be cruising through one of the roughest, most perilous areas of the city one minute, and then the next you are in one of the safest and most affluent.
Monica wished to visit the aquarium at Usharka but neither Dean, Ella nor I could be bothered. Instead, the four of us meandered amongst the expensive shops and amusements within the aquatic complex. We then watched some traditional African dancers stomp and jump along the pretty esplanade, before ending up sat outside an exclusive bar with a bucket full of beers.
I really didn’t fancy drinking again once the alcohol hit my stomach. And neither did the others particularly, so once we finished our bucket we went for a stroll in the hope of finding Victoria Street Market.
The idea of being energetic in the midday heat soon lost its appeal for Monica and Ella. They fancied taking a minibus to the market instead. Looking at the map in my guidebook however, I figured it would be pretty easy for us to get to there on foot. We had no idea which of the reputedly dangerous minibuses travelled the route, and the risk of being pickpocketed or lost didn’t seem worth it to me.
Getting my way, we set off walking along the beach front before cutting across the car park of a derelict hotel. Turning left, we proceeded towards Durban’s centre. All of the street names matched the map I was referencing, and according to my calculations all we had to do was keep heading north and we’d soon stumble across our destination.
Five minutes’ walk along Pine Street, having reached the brow of a small hill, we came across an altogether discomforting scene. The attractive, safe feeling esplanade to the south was rapidly replaced by poverty stricken, pot holed streets housing an array of very dubious looking characters.
Unperturbed enough not to turn back, we continued on towards the market. Dressed in our expensive, brightly coloured clothing and carrying all our valuables, we stuck out more than Pinocchio’s conk would’ve had he chosen a career in politics.
It was necessary we pass a dozen young black men, all dressed in grey, tattered rags squatting on the pavement. They were gambling with dice for a stash of notes piled at their feet.
“Shitting hell,” urged Dean as we neared a crossroads. “That looks like the place Anusa said to stay well clear of. The Point or whatever it was called.”
“It is,” confirmed Monica. “I recognise that red sign on the right. Nice one, Jordan.”
“If we carry on it might be ok.” I replied, hoping I hadn’t led us into any danger. “Come on, let’s stop fucking about, those lads are all staring at us now.”
We crossed the road and Dean and I stood outside a corner shop while Monica and Ella went in to get a drink. As we waited, discussing how it probably wasn’t all that dodgy after all, a car swerved to the side of the road and pulled up next to us.
“What are you doing here?” a concerned looking woman in the driver’s seat asked. “You need to get out of here now.”
“We’re going go to Victoria Street Market. Is it far away?”
“Yes it is. Look, you honestly need to get out of here before something happens to you. This is a very dangerous place for you to be in.”
“Shit.” I said to Dean, looking into the shop. “What are those bloody women doing in there?”
“Get a taxi if you must. Just get out of here quickly” reiterated the lady.
“Any chance you could give us a lift?” Dean asked cheekily.
Conferring with her elderly passenger, the South African lady ushered Dean and I to quickly get in. The girls eventually exited the shop and crammed into the back of the small white car too. As Ella perched on Monica’s lap, the car speed northwards no sooner had she shut the door.
“What were you doing in The Point?” the old woman in the passenger seat asked.
“It doesn’t matter Mum. They are ok now.”
“I thought I could get us to the market on foot.” I answered sheepishly. “I don’t like the look of minibus taxis. They seem dodgy.”
“Some taxis in Durban are fine. Just be careful on the shared ones,” replied the younger of the two women.
“It’s the bloody Nigerians mostly.” chirped the mother.
“It’s not just Nigerians that are dangerous Mother. The Zimbabweans cause trouble in the taxis also, and we have a lot of criminals of our own too.”
Thanking the sympathetic women profusely, we alighted on Victoria Street and made our way into the market.
After all that drama, the place was a complete waste of time and energy. I’d expected a vibrancy of life here. Spices, colourful produce, music and happy vendors. But the covered market was practically dead upon our arrival and subsequently held little appeal.
Although quiet, I was still very much on edge after our recent scare, nervously eyeing anybody who came near us in the market and surrounding streets. All of us felt similar, with the exception of Monica perhaps who was constantly in her own little world, so we left ten minutes after having arrived
This time the girls got their way and we caught a taxi safely back to Usharka. Luckily the driver was a friendly South African native. And not a ‘bloody Nigerian’ the lovely old xenophobe had warned us against earlier.
Returning to the hostel, we walked into a right old hoo-ha as both Darren and Mandy – the peculiar South African charity worker – stormed around the place exchanging nasty looks and comments.
“I’ll eat him for breakfast!” fumed Mandy repeatedly, making herself look an idiot.
It transpired that after a little snooping around, Darren had uncovered that Mandy was a con artist who went around the country scrounging free food and lodgings from gullible hostel owners. What she told us all regarding the artists and scouting out potential accommodation options was all a pack of lies. Tease had been giving her a free room and meals, as had it been true it could have been a good business move. Unfortunately for him, it was a load of old bollocks.
I had seen cracks in Mandy’s pious façade when Ada and her friends had been present. She would regularly sway over and fawn for mine and Dean’s attention as we chatted up the girls. When she didn’t get it she’d attempt to cock block us both by telling Ada, Lily and Ella that we were ‘naughty boys’ and ‘sleazy’ and to stay well away. Both these comments had undertones of truth perhaps, but it really wasn’t her place to broadcast them.
Personally, I’d pissed Mandy off the night before when she’d asked for a kiss on the cheek. Not keen on the way she leered at me, I had stuck my tongue in her ear instead. I’d realised by this point she was a bit of a twonk, so her ignoring me for the remainder of the night was a welcome relief.
Mandy proved herself to be a crass, humourless bullshitter. And watching her get forcibly evicted the following day proved very good sport indeed.